Special Report

Infamous Gunfighters of the American West

The period from the 1850s to the early 1900s was a turbulent time in the American West. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 enabled the forced relocation of Native Americans to reservations, opening up previously claimed lands to white settlers rushing westward for land claims.

With minimal federal oversight, lawlessness prevailed in many frontier areas, where shootouts over land, cattle, and gambling disputes were common. Though town sheriffs and marshals tried maintaining order, vigilante justice by outlaws and gunslingers was rampant. Here are the guns that won the old West.

To compile a list of famous gunfighters of the American West, 24/7 Tempo consulted numerous sources including History.com, Biography.com, and Britannica. A few famous sharpshooters who never killed anyone have been included, as have a small number of outlaws from the East.

Some of the most well-known gunfighters like Wild Bill Hickock and Wyatt Earp were lawmen who gained fame for carrying out justice. But most were bandits who robbed trains, banks, or coaches alone or with a gang. Some also rustled cattle or stole horses, while a few went from lawmen to outlaws.

Many gunfighters became legendary figures, with films and shows dramatizing their difficult lives and dramatic deaths. The film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” about two famous Wild Bunch outlaws is one of the most successful movies of the 1960s.

Click here to see the infamous gunfighters of the American West

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